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With the start of college happening for many, I thought it might be helpful to write about how to hold oneself accountable in college and what I have found most helpful.
We all want the college experience. We get excited to (maybe) live on our own, make new friends, take classes that sound amazing, go to parties, and experience a new life.
But with college and transition, come a lot of challenges.
Often we want to fit in at college – we have a new-found freedom, access to a gym, and new foods. But how can one keep accountable in an environment that could be quite toxic? How can we show compassion toward our body while facing these challenges in a college setting? How do we make good choices about our body, food, and exercise?
What I have found to be the most important factor in all of this is having a support system made of friends, family, and faculty. I was always someone who was terrified to use my voice and avoided asking for support. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and alone. But I began to realize having the support I needed gave me accountability in eating what I needed to be eating, not overdoing it with exercise, and staying involved and present in all of my classes. I had designated people as support when it came to food, specific people when it came to exercise, and specific people when it came to my body.
For my body in terms of exercise, the 2 major ways I held myself accountable was as follows:
1. Working out with a friend (who isn’t obsessive/you trust).
They didn’t necessarily have to know what was going on, but just having someone else there made it easier for me to not get caught up in obsessive thoughts. It also allowed me to be surrounded by someone who had a positive and healthy relationship with exercise. I, fortunately, was able to be honest with my friend about the issue, which made the accountability much better and more powerful.
I suggest telling a friend or at least someone you trust if there’s an issue with exercise. It takes the power away from the disordered thoughts. It also makes it easier to embrace and accept the support. But everyone has their own process, and you just need to do what’s going to work and benefit you the most.
2. Getting involved with exercise outside of your “norm.”
Soccer was a big help for me. I recommend getting involved with a team sport rather than one that’s individual and/or has a large emphasis on the body. Having a group of girls around me who shared a love for a sport was awesome.
In general, playing soccer is a team effort and being able to contribute to it is a powerful feeling. It made me want to and have to take care of my body properly. Since I was part of the team, I had to make sure I was being healthy in all aspects of my life if I wanted to continue playing.
For my body in terms of food, the 2 major ways of accountability were:
1. Eating with friends.
I’ve come to realize people are going to make comments about weight and food. You can’t always avoid it. But depending on the people, there really isn’t a great deal of talk going on about it. I loved eating with guys. They never made any negative comments about food or the body. They weren’t as focused on objective matters such as the body.
I also confided in a few friends about my struggles, which made meals times easier and relaxed. Eating by yourself can lead to unhealthy behaviors, but when you’re with others, you’re not as likely to make disordered choices (restricting, binging, purging, etc).
2. Campus dietitian.
Meeting with the campus dietitian played an integral part in my recovery. If I was too nervous to talk with a friend about my exercise, body, or food, then I was able to go straight to the dietitian and let it all out without feeling judged or ashamed. I think knowing your options on campus with mental health/dietetic services is helpful for any person, eating disordered or not.
Embrace your time in a new setting with new people. Don’t be scared of the challenges.
All transitions are a challenge, but that doesn’t mean they have to be negative. These transitions can be positive. It’s all about the resources you use and your attitude. Most of all, have fun and trust yourself and the universe that it will bring you exactly what you need.
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